Flying dinosaurs ascending to PD in March

Raptor Watch, 2018, will take place on March 10 and 11 this year at Tanjung Tuan, an environmental event that highlights to the public why birds are so important to the planet and humans.

2018 has been donned "Year of the Bird" in this months National Geographic magazine so it will be interesting to see how the public and authorities react to results from this years event, as many volunteer observers chronicle the numbers of Eagles, Hawks, Buzzards, Kites and Falcons that migrate across the Straits of Melaka from Sumatra.

In times past 1800-2000 raptors have been recorded crossing the straits in one day as they return from Australia, and myriad islands of Indonesia, to their homes in places as far away as Russia and Nepal.

This raptor migration however is not the longest migration of a bird species by any means, as raptors rest, eat and recover as they make their way along the endangered forest pathways that Indonesia offer.

That honour belongs to a female Bar-tailed Godwit which flew non-stop from Alaska to New Zealand, an unbroken journey of some 11, 690 kilometres, with no break for sleep or food. She flew for nine days, beating 70,000 of her fellow Alaskan Godwits who also made New Zealand their home for five months.

If that effort from a bird doesn't impress you then consider this for a feat of unparalleled endurance.

Common swifts will leave their European home every July and head on down to Western and Central Africa. They will stay airborne for up to 10 months and return in June, never touching the ground.

Data collection from the Common swifts that had small data loggers attached by scientists, indicate they slept, mated, ate and collected nest material whilst in the air. A feat and adaptation developed over millions of years which puts them in the category of being, natures greatest aeronauts.

Scientists tell us birds used to be dinosaurs, if you didn't know already. Let that sink in a bit.

Dinosaurs were the only other animal on the planet that is known to have had feathers, the Tyrannosaurs perhaps developed them for insulation or display, long before birds had evolved.

So birds are important, they are the sole remaining line of lineage to dinosaurs and have been around on earth some 150 million years longer than humans - but now we need to help them survive before the 10,000 or so species still alive, disappear completely.

Raptor watch is all about educating the public about this select group of birds and their impact on forests and wildlife so if you can support the event, get down there and learn more about birds, they are truly amazing animals.

On hand will be volunteer guides to take you up and into the hilly Dipterocarp forest where you can also see Dusky Langurs and at the top of the hill is an old lighthouse, circa 1528, built by the Portuguese who ruled Melaka at the time.

Hopefully there will be high numbers of birds verified by the observers over the migration period this year. This will indicate a healthy population of raptors, who just may be the 2018 adapted version of their 150 million year old namesake, the deadly velociraptor.

Foot note:

A lot of the facts sourced for this story came from National Geographic publications who this month published this passionate plea (see link below) for birds survival by author, award-winning novelist and bird lover, Jonathan Franzen.

There is, however, one critical ability that human beings have and birds do not: mastery of their environment. Birds can’t protect wetlands, can’t manage a fishery, can’t air-condition their nests. They have only the instincts and the physical abilities that evolution has bequeathed to them. These have served them well for a very long time, 150 million years longer than human beings have been around. But now human beings are changing the planet—its surface, its climate, its oceans—too quickly for birds to adapt to by evolving. Crows and gulls may thrive at our garbage dumps, blackbirds and cowbirds at our feedlots, robins and bulbuls in our city parks. But the future of most bird species depends on our commitment to preserving them. Are they valuable enough for us to make the effort?

What bird populations do usefully indicate is the health of our ethical values. One reason that wild birds matter—ought to matter—is that they are our last, best connection to a natural world that is otherwise receding. They’re the most vivid and widespread representatives of the Earth as it was before people arrived on it. They share descent with the largest animals ever to walk on land: The house finch outside your window is a tiny and beautifully adapted living dinosaur.

Jonathan Franzen

Read the full National Geographic story here:


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